Classic Chocolate Cake Recipe

April, 2014 · By Coryanne Ettiene

At some point in my life I fell out of love with chocolate and then I was coaxed into a chocolate shop in Belgium and found myself sampling enough chocolates to put 20lbs on me.  It was that moment that I fell back in love with the rich, slightly bitter, ever so sweetness of chocolate.  But my love affair is cursed and I have yet to find another chocolate that compares, which means that when I do eat chocolate, I do so at the mercy of my bank account.  Now that I have the confidence to whip up a vanilla cake, I spent the weekend trying my luck at making a chocolate cake….   a journey that practically had me crying on the floor because the genius in me thought that I could whimsically find my perfect cake while I was hosting a playdate for 10 children.   I had grand ideas of serving this cake to a crowd of hungry school children, with shouts of glee at the chance to taste test every cake; but that never happened.  When you recipe 6 cakes in 6 hours, and play hostess to 10 children at the same time,  you find yourself on the floor in a blind panic, in a filthy kitchen and your spring white jeans covered in chocolate…oh the drama…. But finally just as dinner was looming, I mastered the art of baking my perfect classic chocolate cake. 6 cakes, 6 hours…. followed by 6 glasses of wine, and 1 winner.

Classic Chocolate Cake By Coryanne Ettiene

It goes without saying, I had every single Nigella Lawson cookbook open, along with a half a dozen others to inspire me, teach me and get me excited about my new baking adventure.  I spent days reading each recipe, contemplating the differences between them — vegetable oil, sour cream, brown sugar, buttermilk, coffee…  they all brought something different to the table, but what I wanted was a thick, rich, dark chocolate cake that was a heavy, stick to your guts cake with a moist finish that you could accent with raspberries (for no other reason that we all love raspberries in our house).

Slices of Chocolat Cake By Coryanne Ettiene

In the end the cake I loved most was combined effort from Nigella Lawson, Martha Stewart and a post it note recipe from a London neighbor that allows the chocolate to take center stage and butter to take second place; without all the added extras that over complicate the simplicity of a fabulous chocolate.


  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, plus a splash for good measure
  • 2 1/4 cups of white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of Dutch Cocoa powder
  • 3 cups of all purpose white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup of boiling water


Step 1.  Line 2 or 3 round cake pans with a sheet of parchment paper, and lightly butter and dust them with cocoa powered; then set aside while you prepare the batter. I opted for 2 pans and for thicker cakes, there is plenty of batter here for 3 thinner cakes.

Step 2.  Sift the cocoa into a small bowl and then add boiling water to it, string until it is smooth and paste like; then set aside to cool.

Step 3.  Add your butter to a mixing bowl and slowly fold in the sugar, mixing until it is light and fluffy.  Then add the eggs one at a time until the butter no longer sticks to the whisk.  (*note, I did not use a stand mixer for this, I whisked it by hand as I read that often times, lumpy cakes have a better finish).

Step 4:  In a large bowl, add the remaining dry ingredients and stir them together.  And then add the milk to the cocoa blend, using a whisk to create  creamy chocolate sauce.  Take turns adding the dry mixture and the chocolate to the butter batter, whisking until fully blended before adding more ingredients.  If, by the time everything is blended, your batter looks too dry, add a splash of milk to give it a smooth, but not runny finish.

Step 5:  Bake in the middle rack of a 350F oven for 35 minutes for 3 pans, or 45 mins for 2 pans — taking care to check the cakes at about 40 minutes if you are using 2 pans to prevent over baking.

Step 6:  Remove from the oven, and allow them to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, than transfer them to a cooking rack, taking care to remove the parchment paper while they cool. Once cool, layer and frost at will.

I layered this classic chocolate cake with raspberries, much like a Victoria Sponge cake.  I lightly frosted the top of the bottom cake with chocolate butter cream frosting, then added a layer of freshly crushed raspberries before placing the top cake in place, and frosting the whole cake.  I devoured the raspberry layer cake, but must admit, the standard chocolate buttercream layer cake was just as fabulous.  Needless to say we had cake for dinner, breakfast and lunch for days…  I dare say we are done with cake for a while.




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